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Stingray Envenomation Follow-up

  • Author: John L Meade, MD; Chief Editor: Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM  more...
Updated: Feb 05, 2016

Further Outpatient Care

Give patients explicit instructions regarding attention to local wound care and advise them to watch for infection. Requesting that the patient seek a wound check in 2-3 days (with a family doctor or at the ED) is not unreasonable.

It is especially vital that the patient understands that for any sign of infection with Vibrio organisms, time is of the essence in returning to the ED for immediate care.


Inpatient & Outpatient Medications

Prescribing oral narcotics for patients to use as needed upon discharge is appropriate.



When stepped on, the stingray reflexively strikes out, causing the injury to the person who stepped on it. Advise patients to walk in the shallow areas of the beach with a shuffling gait. This is effective in causing stingrays to move away and help decrease the possibility of accidentally stepping on a stingray.



Stingray injuries (eg, puncture wounds, lacerations, envenomations) tend to have good outcomes. If patients do not develop infection or other complications, they can expect to have minimal pain in 24-48 hours and healing within 1-2 weeks.


Patient Education

Following is an example of discharge instructions that could be given to patients after treatment of stingray injuries.

Because so many areas of water are nearby, many types of injuries associated with being in or near the water are encountered. These injuries may occur while fishing, walking on the beach, playing in the surf, diving, or working with a home aquarium.

Stingrays often cause lacerations and puncture wounds when the tail whips up and thrusts its spines into the victim, injecting venom (poison). The pain is severe immediately and worsens over the next hour. The pain may last 48 hours. Although rare, deaths have occurred from stingray injuries.

As soon as possible, the wound should be soaked for 30-90 minutes in very hot water (as hot as can be endured without causing burns). The heat inactivates the poison and dramatically relieves the pain. The physician may prescribe pain medication. Also, because the risk of infection is very high, antibiotics are given to prevent infection.

Despite the best of care, any wound can develop infection or other complications. If any of the following occur, it is recommended that patients call their own doctor, the referral physician, or clinic (If a physician cannot be contacted, return to the ED is advised.):

  • Wound drainage increases, shows pus, or develops a foul odor
  • Wound bleeds heavily
  • Wound becomes more sore or swollen
  • Wound develops increasing redness, or red streaks develop
  • A fever develops
  • Wound does not appear to be healing properly
  • Any other new or worsening symptoms that are of concern

For patient education resources, see the Bites and Stings Center, as well as Stingray Injury.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

John L Meade, MD CEO, Statdoc Consulting, Inc

John L Meade, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD Regional Director of Pharmacy, Sacred Heart and St Joseph's Hospitals

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Richard H Sinert, DO Professor of Emergency Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Research Director, State University of New York College of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Vice-Chair in Charge of Research, Department of Emergency Medicine, Kings County Hospital Center

Richard H Sinert, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM Associate Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Louisville School of Medicine

Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Richard S Krause, MD Senior Clinical Faculty/Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Buffalo State University of New York School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Richard S Krause, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Typical stingray puncture wound on a foot, approximately 60 minutes after injury. Photo by John L. Meade, MD.
Stingray barb in forearm. Photo by John L. Meade, MD.
Stingray barb broken off in ring finger. Photo by John L. Meade, MD.
Spine removed from stingray injury. Image courtesy of Scott Plantz, MD.
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